Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sexting, Blabbing, or Bullying - Which Would You Choose?

Let me begin by saying that "sexting" (sending lewd comments and naked photos of yourself via text), though sinful, is far from the worst thing one adult can do to another.  Sexting someone you think is a 16-year-old boy ... well, that's another story

But which is worse?  A priest sexting someone he thinks is a 16-year-old boy, but isn't - or a pastor refusing to tell parishioners about this and bullying them into not asking questions when the priest is removed from their parish for this very reason?

The priest intended to abuse a minor, but didn't.  The pastor intended to bully his parishioners, and did.

From The Star Ledger (emphasis mine) ...

The text messages read as if they’ve been ripped from a pornographic novel.
Matthew Riedlinger quizzed his texting partner about sex videos, pressed for details about intimate liaisons, described sexual acts and encouraged mutual masturbation.
He also repeatedly asked to meet.
"Promise me you will never breath (sic) a word of this to anyone — ok?" he wrote.
Riedlinger had good reason for discretion.
He is a priest of the Diocese of Trenton, and while exchanging more than 1,200 text messages over four weeks last year, he thought was he talking to a 16-year-old boy.
Riedlinger, at the time an assistant pastor at St. Aloysius Church in Jackson and a sex-education teacher at the parish school, was the target of an elaborate sting by a Catholic University of America graduate who says the priest sexually harassed him for years.
Timothy Schmalz, now 23 and a resident of Washington, D.C., said he was moved to action after his first complaint about Riedlinger in 2011 resulted in what he characterized as a slap on the wrist by Trenton Bishop David M. O’Connell.
Schmalz is one of five young men who provided The Star-Ledger with similar accounts of harassment and sexual obsession by the priest. Four of the five were in their late teens or early 20s when Riedlinger began inappropriate and persistent sexual dialogues with them, they said. The fifth was in his late 20s.
The sting, initiated on Facebook and carried out through the use of a Google Voice account, partially served its purpose.
After Schmalz forwarded transcripts of the text messages and other materials to O’Connell in August 2012, the bishop removed Riedlinger from the parish, placed him in an in-patient treatment program and later assigned him to restricted ministry away from children, the diocese confirmed.
But for more than a year, O’Connell refused to tell parishioners at St. Aloysius why the priest had been pulled, an omission that advocates for victims of clergy sex abuse call a flagrant violation of the church’s pledge of transparency.
Moreover, the former pastor, the Rev. Kevin Keelan, chastised parishioners for asking questions about Riedlinger’s removal, saying in the church bulletin that "blabbing" was a sin and that they were not entitled to more information.
O’Connell informed parishioners of the complaints in a statement only last weekend, a day after The Star-Ledger questioned the diocese about Riedlinger and the decision to withhold information about the allegations.
Even then, the statement makes no mention of the fact that Riedlinger believed he was corresponding with a 16-year-old boy during sexually explicit conversations.
"Father Riedlinger has been the subject of two complaints to the diocese over the past few years regarding his participation in inappropriate cell phone text communication over a period of some years with adults," according to the statement, which was read aloud at weekend Masses. "There was no sexual contact, assault or abuse referenced in the complaints."
Read more here.


Now doesn't that make you feel good, readers?

Clearly, Bill Donohue is having an impact.  When embarrassed, fall back not on the great Law that is written in our hearts, not on Jesus Christ, not on the Holy Spirit, not on contrition or penance ... when caught doing wrong, evade, bully, shift the blame, spin, and parse your words with legalistic finesse.  

In the same way that Donohue is defending Archbishop Nienstedt of St. Paul for allowing a priest to park a camper on the lot of his parish and invite little boys inside of it, while knowing for ten years that this man is a disturbed individual personally and sexually, simply because there were no official "complaints" made through official channels; in the same way that Donohue defended Bishop Finn for covering up for a priest who molested girls by claiming that the "crotch shots" this priest took of girls with spy cameras and the naked pictures he took of a two-year old's genitalia were not technically child pornography, after all; so the anonymous spokesman for the diocese of Trenton assures us that  "There was no sexual contact, assault or abuse referenced in the complaints" against Fr. Riedlinger.  And that he was sexting an adult - which is technically true.

Glad our bishops and pastors are learning their lessons, aren't you?

Maybe one day they'll be as good at PR as Bill Donohue!


David Clohessy said...

Here's SNAP's take on this disturbing case:

Joey Higgins said...

*While I make this observation, I acknowledge that I lie as well*

I'm always surprised at how certain people will lie or do things that they want instead of what is right. It's so easy to do it, but you'd hope that people in high positions like pastors and bishops wouldn't lie, because it's part of their job not to.

But then again, I do at times when it suits me. I don't like to lie anymore, but I still will if it helps assuage the situation temporarily.

I don't know where I'm going with this.... Maybe I'm just expressing my sadness at my own failure to tell the truth and therefore contribute to this problem tangentially.